Morak (Alex D) - The fortune telling artificial intelligence, big on brains and weedy of body, who is physically incapable of failing an Interaction check and can't resist the taste of commercial plastic signage. Has deep seated curiosity issues.
Shallow Thought (Oliver) - The ghost of a long forgotten file sharing operation, his/her/its powers of ectoplasmic magnetism are matched only by thier/our/the ability to stand on the front lines and get not quite killed again just in the nick of time. Also packs a mean left hook.
Rich Pelican (Gary) - A self replicating doppelganger who can force his will upon others, Mr Pelican is every best salesman you have ever met, whether he's willing to admit it or not. He could probably talk his way out of a locked safe at the bottom of the atlantic ocean, and then convince his captor that the only place safe from the government funded space aliens was that very prison!
Forboding Serendipity (Alex E) - One of the rare few humans that are still truly human, this genetically engineered wasteland wanderer is nonetheless gifted with extraordinary strength - enough to break the earth beneath his feet when the going gets tough. Combined with a sharp mind and a talent for ferreting out the bizarre, this makes one of the last humans alive a force to be reckoned with.
Prago (Marik) - A telekinetic who can control not only objects but manipulate them as well arrived as the team's area control specialist. A conscientious soul and prone to bouts of independent pro-activity the Crockerbillys' finding out about the sealed room was the work of his loose tongue, but he was also the true advocate of talking to the enemy ghosts, despite continued attack from them.
And featuring, for a limited time only:
Callisto (Andy) - A stretchy, squishy man with a level of education somewhere just above single celled life and a keenness for pulling zombies out of the ground given the slightest provocation. Runs right into danger before realising he is a complete coward, re-thinks, and decides he would rather sit at the back of the party and play necromancer after all!
Episode 2: The Problem with Poltergeists.
With the Crockerbilly and Green Folk heirs rescued it was party time in Tumbledown. Wine flowed like beer, beer flowed like wine, and everyone got thoroughly tanked as the crocs proceeded to rock out like only they could. However, in the computer banks buried beneath the T-Company a slumbering mind awoke, roused by those cacophonic celebrations. After eons of dread sleep that restless soul rose to the surface, and was promptly welcomed into the party by Callisto and Morak. Plied with booze the ghost Shallow Thought was press ganged into the pair’s next enterprise, because who can say no when a prophetic android tells you it is your destiny to help start up their new franchise?
Armed with a map of the south east New State the trio bid farewell to their benefactors as they set out to find a base for their own branch of the T-company, motivated by the promise of future profits and stock shipping from Tumbledown. Heading up the five day road through the Drifter-Ways desert they made a beeline for the crossing of the Hoojit River half-way to the next settlement, to offer solace and merchandise to those who risk travelling the desert.
Not the first to try, they laid claim to the most intact of the ruins around the crossing; an old Earthian garden centre, once again abandoned and overgrown. Though stripped bare of goods, the building would make a fine base of operations once reclaimed from the local wildlife. Said wildlife turned out to be a particularly vicious brood of mutant mosquito though, whose sedative poisons came close to claiming poor Callisto as the party were attacked from all sides in the claustrophobic offices.
Thankfully their combined skill at combat, as well as a final shot from Morak's scavenged ray gun cleared the kitchen enough to hide in, and they barred the door lest the final bugs finished what their brethren had started. When the hallway quietened the trio emerged to find the last bugs gone, and led by a troop of summoned zombies (both real and illusory) they followed them to the main office. Within, the giant queen mosquito finished up a cannibalistic meal, slaying the heroes’ prey for them, before deciding that she was still hungry and turning on the party, and frightening Callisto into a rapid-fire series of spontaneous mutations.
The fight was hard, the beast’s huge, blade-like forearms punishing all who approached and cutting chunks of ectoplasm out of Shallow Thought who had led the charge. As he/she/it fought Morak saw how desperate the situation was and unloaded every plasma rifle shot he had into the beast which, combined with ghostly martial arts and zombie-held frying pans, finally subdued the beast just in the nick of time. Victory was celebrated with mosquito-egg omelettes
With the building secured the group went about exploring, claiming what loot remained and calling in the first of their stock from Tumbledown. Shoring up the building was slow, however, as lumber and metal from the surrounding ruins would not sit still for Morak, who suspected someone of tampering with his scavenging. And what is behind that metal door on the upper floor, welded shut and silent? For a sealed and seemingly empty room, it has drawn a lot of curiosity.
With the garden centre secured all that remained was to await the Crockerbillys' convoy of stock and additional staff, driving up from Tumbledown in one of the wasteland's few fully functional articulated lorries. During that time Morak made the last of his repairs to the building, self-moving parts notwithstanding, Shallow Thought proceeded to make the greenhouses somewhat less wild, and Callisto went investigating the unusual proliferation of dead bodies he was able to raise during the clearing of the building.
The lorry arrived late the following day, bringing with it mountains of saleable goods, a pair of Green Folk to run the guest catering, and two new full time employees - the telepathic changeling Rick Pelican and telekinetic Prago.
Celebrations over their arrival were somewhat halted however, when Callisto failed to meet the newcomers at the gate, and screamed from his digging spots behind the building. Shallow Thought, Prago and Morak raced to see what had happened, only to find nothing at, and while they searched at length for their wayward ally Mr Pelican took the initiative and with Green Folk help secured the stock. The tech-savvy crocks helped and boozed in equal measure.
After long and fruitless search, with Rick and Prago motivated by Moraks insistence that with one third of the managing staff gone they would be missing one third of their pay as well, they concluded that the only place they hadn't searched was that welded room. Morak, having discovered that he could teleport as of his last mutation took the lead and Bamfd himself into the room clad in oil soaked torches to light the expected blackness. What he saw as he burned the contents of an overturned out-tray was an old fashioned study room, complete with fireplace despite the building's lack of chimney, and sitting at the desk there was a female ghost. She turned at his greeting, saw the fire, and screamed before trying to bat it out with her spectral jacket. At that point Morak returned to the corridor to report his findings, but after his intrusion the welded door bled profusely, leaving the words "GET OUT" spelt in bare steel while the rest turned red. A second jaunt took him to another place entirely: an empty formal garden with a sleeping gazebo at the far end. Teleporting back he found himself safe in the kitchen, but further attempts to intrude were stopped when he could not enter at all, the room having protected itself from him somehow.
Bereft of further options they returned with the Greens to try and find Callisto outside, but were called to one of the greenhouses when a Green Folk was catapulted through the glass and left unconscious by the attack. Within, the retail team saw three of the unusual topiaries now animate and attacking the Greens, and which soon turned on them.
The battle might have been bloody if not for Morak using the last of his teleport powers and funnelling more of his life force into it than was safe, flinging the animate trees a mile away in the blink of an eye. All that was left was a strange, spectral tendril, that was quickly dispatched.
As the adrenaline from the aborted fight faded the heroes set up fires for the night in case the trees managed to return, and the combination of their newly sprouting mutations and a good night's rest gave Shallow Thought and Prago a new idea. A ghost with liquid bones could be poured through a hole drilled into the sealed room's walls - and idea that the slowly recovering crocks could get behind. Cobbling together a jet-powered drill the reptiles did indeed manage to bore the hole, and Shallow Thought ventured in.
The ghost returned along with a second, more fearsome ghost whose name was uttered as 'Meredith' and whose face appeared to have been burnt away leaving just a bare skull. Though the unnamed poltergeist appeared apologetic both ghosts attacked, and after much faffing in the corridor as to whether to blow up the wall or not Shallow Thought finally gave the order and everyone else dove for cover while the Crocks knocked themselves unconscious in the blast.
Once again, a shadow tendril joined the fight, and Shallow Thought focused on that, since the unnamed poltergeist at least seemed to fight under duress. Prago made a serious attempt to talk the ghosts down while Morak and Rick re-emerged to tackle the furious Meredith - and in doing so Rick enraged her by mind controlling her to trash the desk she seemed to be protecting. They then discovered that she was somehow tied to it, as she could not venture far into the corridor under her own power.
Soon though Shallow thought managed to dispatch the ghostly tendril, and Meredith and her friend vanished with a gout of fire and an ominous warning respectively: “Leave now, while you still can!"
The ghosts’ departure was not without cost. As the as yet unnamed poltergeist vanished she reached out to lay a hand on Shallow Thought's shoulder, and the ghost in the machine had time only to grow a look of surprise before vanishing along with her. Likewise, Meredith's explosive exit rendered Prago unconscious, and it was left to Morak and Rick Pelican to lay them and the unconscious Crockerbillys out in the improvised staff bunks.
There was little time to remain idle, though as the centre's first customer pulled up outside. Serendipity, as he was known to most, took the sight of a manned stall as an opportunity for food and trade, and was welcomed in by the still shaken Green Folk woman before she dash off to find out if anyone was left alive after the explosions upstairs to help out.
Morak (all business) and Rick (all practical caution after the fight) appeared, and the group were introduced. Serendipity, having heard the end of the fight from outside, commented on the rather 'large rats' they must have, and as a competent exterminator would be willing to help them out in exchange for supplies and parts for his rare working car. After a little haggling (and a key observation from Rich that they were rather short staffed now) the deal was struck up, with the idea of loot from further missing persons foremost in all their minds.
During the investigations that followed Rich discovered some old dead roots where the tendril phantoms had appeared outside, and found that similar fleshy plant matter had been burnt in the strange, disconnected fireplace in the ghosts' now uninhabited room. This in turn led to an examination of the chimney, and between them Morak and Rick came upon the plan for Rick to manifest one of his doppelgangers at the top, where they saw light. What the doppelganger saw before it fell a meagre ten feet to its death atop the chimney was not the roof of the garden centre but the garden Morak had once teleported into, complete with gazebo. Strange.
While they did that Serendipity examined the bookcase for clues, and proved a natural at paranormal investigating, not only identifying the lingering ghost-stuff on several occult, religious and paranormal science books, but also in key areas around the room.
Over an hour of investigating was brought to a halt as the Green Folk woman once again called on them, this time in panic. One of the topiary creatures Morak had teleported away had found its way back, and once again she had found herself unable to control it like she could all other vegetation. Rich cautiously tested the water, throwing some of the root material he had found to the creature, and Serendipity followed up by quietly leaving a bowl of water for the apparently confused plant-beast to find. That it did, and proceeded to water the dead root, to no result.
As the topiary moved on to the greenhouses again Morak decided to try and tame it, and concocted what he thought might make for fertiliser out of what good soil he could find and some of Rick's old doppelganger-stuff. Approaching the creature it appeared receptive, but as it 'ate' from the compost more tendrils appeared from within the greenhouse, sliding from animated fungi that bored their way up from beneath the earth.
The walking fungi wasted no time at all before approaching to subdue the party with bark-like spines and sneezing-gas spores. Entangled as he was with the huge topiary-wolf Morak found it difficult to fight back effectively without also attacking the strangely passive creature, but Rick rushed in upon his hoverboard, using a burning mop as a lance against the fungi, and summoning more doppelgangers to give the tendrils something else to focus on. Staying on the hoverboard seemed to be tricky though, and as he toppled off the wolf-tree turned to him for attention, for reasons he could not fathom,, leaving Morak to face the 'shrooms that now ganged up on him. Luckily Serendipity proved talented with his vastly oversized wrench, eventually destroying one of the fungi-things with satisfying amounts of overkill.
Similarly, with his powers of coercion Rick managed to subdue the tree-wolf and turn it to their cause, though it took more time than he liked during the heat of combat. Combined with a hi-tech personal orbiter device he and his new plant-friend made short work of the tendrils, even though doing so seemed to weaken the plant creature considerably.
Morak fared less well, being forced to retreat and unable to use his salvaged gauss rifle in such close combat. He was chased down, and collapsed as his meagre constitution score caught up with him. Luckily Rick and Serendipity were not far behind, and managed to put the mushroom in its place.
Once recovered their minds returned to the problem of exactly what these tendrils were, but with little evidence beyond some shrivelled roots they came to few conclusions. Instead they turned their minds to trying to contact the ghosts again, more peacefully this time. Rick put his efforts to fixing the broken typewriter in that old study, which showed notable traces of ghost-residue, while Serendipity turned to the books (a copy of the dreaded necronomicon specifically) to find a rite that would make the attempted ghost-writing as successful as possible, though it came at the cost of his own sanity, what with the dread book being thoroughly, mind-warpingly evil and all.
Morak's attempt to make a ghost-locator device out of the shop's surplus of shuttlecocks and ethernet wire proved time inefficient, but he had one untested device completed by the time Rick and Serendipity were ready to begin the ghost-writing ritual.
Morning broke with our heroes having had the most meager of nights in preparation for the trials to come, but Morak was still up with the radioactive larks to test out his ghost detector, while Rick hit the books it preparation for the ritual. However, Serendipity did not wake, and as the morning went on and Morak finished his scanning it became clear that he - like the blast burned Prago - was now in the hands of the gods and his own hearty constitution score after submitting himself to the necronomicon.
With their ritual caster now subject to a sleeping sickness it fell to Rick as master of the unknown to complete the ritual, at which he balked. Anything to do with such a foul book could not be healthy, he justified, so he and Morak proceeded to follow their only other lead - the garden that resided up the study chimney - and leave the ritual inspired ghost writing as a last resort.
Through repeated and frivolous doppelgangerage Rick mapped the garden fully, and managed to get one hapless clone eaten by the gazebo there (ever seen poltergeist?), while Morak’s ghost detector, though vague, signaled out a few spots that might be the source of these evil, shadowy vines.
In another space Shallow Thought sat with the ghosts Meredith and the newly introduced Juliette. They had seen S.T. as a kindred spirit, who would surely be trapped by the tendrils as they had been, and had invited him to leave his companions behind and remain safe in their garden while the mortals fled. Shallow Thought proved unwilling to leave them to their fate though, and returned down the chimney that Rick's doppelgangers had manifested from to re-appear in not-so-corporeal ghost form once again.
According to him, the ghosts were threatened by the tendrils, which were capable of siphoning away soul essence, coercing them to drive away would-be intruders. The ghosts themselves had, a century before - when the worlds had been pure - perpetrated some petty vandalism when their own home was to be demolished and turned into the garden centre that stood now, only to have the plants they burned react violently to fire, killing them both in the blaze. The tendrils, then, were a part or a thrall of this dread vegetation that was to be cultivated for profit, and they had been its first victims.
Armed with this information, not to mention some tech looted from the unconscious Serendipity's car (surely he doesn't need it right now? It's for the good of his new employment!) they built a bonfire in the location that Morak's detector led them to - and mindful of the ghosts’ warnings about these plants' explosive reactions to fire they retreated just in time as the greenhouse was consumed by a fireball. The greenhouse was demolished, and the ground beneath opened up to disgorge several more plant-animals and their accompanying tendrils, fleeing the fire. Now forced to fight them to the death the plant beasts proved a match for Morak, Rick and Shallow Thought, and the trio were quickly surrounded. A heroic show of reckless abandon led Mortak to dance around his enemies will little more than a scratch to show for it, while a freak hardening of ectoplasmic skin protected S.T. from most damage that came his way. Rick was worn down though, even his constant stream of doppelganger distractions was able to stop him falling beneath the beasts' thorny claws.
Even as his allies killed one of the monsters it split like a ball of moss into four small creatures - vegipygmies from the northern lands, consumed and enthralled to the plant creature. Thankfully they and the tendrils were quickly dispatched once the beasts were down, and Rick received aid in time to save his life.
With an underground warren now exposed by the fiery blast the trio, after regaining their wits and their Hit Points, ventured in. Through inspired navigation they tracked through the passages past dozens of immature plant-animals and to the lair of a huge plant' creature hanging from the roof of a cavern beneath the river north of the garden centre - the source of these ghostly tendrils, budding off from its roots. Taking the creature and its pygmy thralls by surprise our heroes struck, but no sooner had they shown themselves than the Plant-maw sprayed a psychosis-inducing poison at Shallow Thought, weakening his mind and turning him against his allies. Sprouting wings within the cramped confines Rick flew to the ideal spot to both shed light on the creature with his torch and attack it with Doppelgangers while Morak suffered Shallow Thought's misguided attacks.
With Rick's empathic aid S.T. shook off his madness, and Morak took to the front to engage the Plant-mother, suffering it's acidic bites as he pummeled it with his digital blast attacks and his two colleagues assisted from range. Morak’s frail physique could not hold up to the corrosive battering it took however, and he fell, his limp body sinking beneath the protection of the mud that covered the cavern floor.
Enraged by the battering it still took from Shallow Thought and Rick's torch-wielding doppelgangers the beast turned to its ghosts assailant, releasing corrosive pollen with every attack it took, until finally the pair had hacked and burned it down.
First aid kit in hand Shallow Thought rushed to Morak's side, but alas the precient AI had no more energy left to keep going, let alone to awaken again. He, with a meager constitution score of 6, had died on the front lines, protecting his investments. Shallow Thought did what he could to salvage Morak's AI, while Rick proceeded to cut a swathe through the budding plant-creature in the passages to ensure that they never grew to bother them.
The pair, with the help of the Crockerbillys, flooded those caverns with the river water from above, and posed Morak's android body atop the now safe building as they and the green folk went about making the newly christened 'Morak Memorial Emporium' ready for business again.
To Be Continued In... A.S.S.A.S.I.N.S.